The All-Party Parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty held its first evidence gathering session recently in Birkenhead.

The inquiry team, co-chaired by Birkenhead's MP Frank Field and the Bishop of Truro, Tim Thornton, is investigating the extent of hunger and food poverty in this country, and the root causes behind the rising demand for food banks.

In a series of discussions held at Birkenhead Town Hall, they heard evidence from local churches, charities, food distribution organisations, public services and people who have relied on food banks, on why they thought more people were having to rely on food assistance in order to avoid going hungry.

The team heard from a local resident who had relied on food assistance, who said: "Nobody wants to go to the food bank. Nobody wants to jump through the hoops.

"Everybody would rather have hope," and that some people were turning up to food banks so hungry that they "would eat everything on the table if they could."

A representative from a local primary school told the Inquiry team that children were arriving at school each morning have not eaten since their school meal the previous day, and that they were distressed at having to go home to dark, cold conditions at the end of the school day.

The team heard also that sources of support from families and incomes were struggling to meet people's needs in the face of rising rents, food prices and energy costs.

Since 2003 food, fuel and housing costs have all increased at a greater rate than earnings, with food (46.4%) and fuel costs (154%) increasing by a significantly greater amount than both earnings (27.9%)and overall inflation (37.7%).

Commenting on these initial findings, Mr Field and Bishop Thornton said: "The poorest households have most felt the pinch over the past decade, meaning the last resort of turning to food banks has become a reality for an increasing number of people. There is a real need for help."

The Inquiry team also visited the Trussell Trust Wirral food bank to gather evidence.

The Inquiry is holding its second regional session in Salisbury this Friday, June 6.